War on corruption, or a hidden agenda?

On the 6th of November 2020, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Lebanese politician, head of the Free Patriotic Movement party since 2015, and son in law of the President of the Lebanese republic, Michel Aoun. Their motive was that Bassil was at the head of corruption in the Lebanese government. On the 8th of November, documents of a Lawsuit filed against Bassil for kidnapping and torture, dating back to October 27th were published by the Lebanese media. That same day, United States’ authorities announced that further sanctions would be imposed on Lebanon’s corrupt officials. In the eyes of most Lebanese citizens, this is the start of a war on corruption, but is the United States’ aim truly to rid Lebanon of its corrupt governing class, or is this just a means to an end?

United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that the corruption in the Lebanese political system is “exemplified” by Bassil, and further announces that these sanctions are the United States’ way of showing its support to the Lebanese people in their endeavor to reform their corrupt system. No matter how comforting these words may sound, Lebanese citizens are no strangers to hidden agendas. 

So, taking a closer look into this matter and further analyzing what these sanctions might truly be aiming to do, it is essential to take into account the alliance of the Free Patriotic Movement to the powerful Shia movement known as Hezbollah. This political party has been in continuous conflict with the neighboring Israeli Forces, who are in turn closely allied to the United States. The latter has been in confrontation with Iran for several years now. There is a clear front of battle that can be seen here, comprising the United States and Israel on one side, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other side, seen as Hezbollah is heavily backed by the Iranian government, with very close relations tying the two up. And in the middle, is Lebanon serving as their conflict’s no man’s land.

This alliance between the FPM1 and Hezbollah is a liability of Hezbollah’s, as they are easier to target without causing too much trouble. By targeting one of the most hated figures in Lebanon, the United States is able to ensure that they are not confronted with any sort of opposition from the Lebanese citizens, but they are also able to weaken one of Hezbollah’s closest allies, which in return is a thorn in the latter’s side. The bottom line being, these sanctions could simply be a war on corruption in Lebanon, or a means of applying pressure subliminally on Tehran through their Lebanese pawn.

Hezbollah’s leadership first addressed these sanctions as a way for the US to infiltrate internal affairs. The United States government responded assuring that these sanctions were solely solicited to fight the corruption instigated by Bassil. This penalization by the Trump administration has been performed under the Global Magnitsky Act, meaning that the United States’ authorities can freeze Bassil’s assets on US soil on grounds of human rights violation and corruption.

Pr. Aoun has requested proof of the allegations made against his son in law. A video of Aoun stating that he would resign if any member of his family is proven to be corrupt has resurged, and the Lebanese people are conflicted about what is happening, happy to regain some hope, but also fearing the uncertainties of these times, not knowing what to expect.

1 Free Patriotic Movement

Politique/Politics

Karim El Achkar View All →

– Collège Notre Dame De Jamhour, Promotion 2020.
– IE University, Bachelor in Philosophy, Politics, Law, and Economics, Class of 2024.
– Writer in the politics section of KALAM.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. It seems like this article lacks a lot of objectivity. Your vision is extremely one sided and self centered: it is clear that you know very little about the Magnitsky act and how it works.
    Let me help you with this little fact: the presidential decree that sanctioned Gebran Bassil also sanctioned dozens of officials from dozens of different countries: even ones allied with the United States such as Slovakia or Saudi Arabia.
    Claiming that the sanctions against Gebran Bassil have a hidden agenda seems very egocentric and extremely unjustified. You have absolutely no proof to back your claims where as there are hundreds of proofs that show you how corrupt the “leader” you’re defending is. Just to refresh your memory, The Magnitsky Act was expanded in 2016 into a more general law authorizing the US government to sanction those found to be human rights offenders or those involved in significant corruption, to freeze their assets, and to ban them from entering the US. The USA is a democracy and a country of law. It couldn’t simply sanction an individual without proof. But you would already know that if you did a minimum of research.

    This article is only pure, baseless, coffee shop speculation and doesn’t reflect the quality that was put into other Kalam articles. I hope the next time you write you will be able to put your political affiliations aside.

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    • Thank you for your comment Ryan.
      To respond to some of your claims, you can clearly find in my article that I stated on what ground the US sanctioned Bassil, thus showing my clear understanding of how the Magnitsky act works, and I should let you know that I agree with their accusations aimed at Gebran Bassil. Moreover, you should know that I proudly am not affiliated to any political party, otherwise I do not believe the Kalam committee would have allowed me to write in this journal for students. I proudly have a muslim mother and a christian father, and do not have any appreciation or respect towards the whole political class in power. I was also on the frontlines of the protests in Martyr’s square and Sassine square. That being said, I still strongly believe that it is not simply about war on corruption, and there is more to it, from a VERY, objective, and a point of view. But then again, if you are not able ro accept my point of view, I still respect yours, and appreciate the time you took to read my article and write this comment, and I welcome with open arms your disrespect of my point of view. Thank you.

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      • Dear Karim,
        I find it very sadly interesting that you feel the need to mention your religious background simply because I disagree with you. It shows some of the cultural issues we have in lebanon that cannot be changed by a simple revolution. Let me be clear with you: my opinion on your article has nothing to do with you, your past or your religion. I just think that your article is based on speculation as you gave us no proof whatsoever to these grave allegations.
        The Magnitsky act, that you seem to know very well, is a law that was passed 8 years ago: thus it was never intended to be used specifically against Lebanon who is just one of the many countries that have been affected. To sanction someone, you need proof that they committed acts of corruption. It’s not a simple governmental deicision: for the US to sanction a person they need proofs and facts. It doesn’t matter who this sanction serves because in the end Gebran Bassil is corrupt and deserves every sanction there is. We should support such sanctions and help the United States sanction other corrupt politicians from other political parties.

        Moreover, I would like to point the fact that in your article, you said that they sanctioned the FPM because it was easier than sanctioning Hezbollah. This argument is simply not true: the United States already sanctioned every single one of Hezbollah’s official since 2008. They already have sanctions specifically for them and Iran outside of the Magnitsky act: they consider them terrorists. They don’t need to “hide” their attacks on the Hezeb, they attack them every day. They attack Iran openly. Why the hell would they need to have a hidden agenda and discreetly sanction bassil to “hurt” hezbollah? They proudly killed soleimani not less than 10 months ago.

        I appreciate the effort you put in your work and I understand it’s important to you but please, I beg you, instead of wasting your time questioning sanctions against corrupt criminals, use your time and energy to find proofs of corruption and help other parties sanction the rest of the corrupt. Use your knowledge against the sectarian leaders that destroyed this country, don’t waste it on speculation and conspiracy theories.
        Thank you again,
        Ryan.

        Like

    • Moreover, if you had read my article objectively, you would realize that me pointing out the resurgence of President Aoun’s video in my final paragraph, clearly shows where I stand on this matter.

      Like

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